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Hot air balloon crash deaths probed

The deaths of two men who were inside a hot air balloon that plunged out of the sky while attempting to climb to high altitude, are being probed by investigators.

It is thought the pair were trying to ascend to 20,000ft (6,096m) when something went wrong, resulting in the craft plummeting to the ground in Midsomer Norton, near Bath, Somerset.

The balloon crashed into the grounds of a bowls club, narrowly missing a nearby row of terraced houses and a school.

A ground crew tracking the balloon - including relatives of the victims - lost sight of it at around 9.30am on Saturday, shortly before it rapidly fell from the sky, according to Avon Fire and Rescue Service.

Witnesses reported seeing the balloon plummet from the sky. Robert Biggs told BBC News: "It first sounded like a plane in trouble. It was more of a whistling sound. We looked up, there was a break in the cloud and this hot air balloon came hurtling down."

He added that it crashed in the middle of a bowling green.

Two off-duty firefighters were cycling nearby and went to the scene to help. But, by the time they arrived, the balloon's four liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders were spewing flames, hampering any rescue attempt.

Four fire engines were dispatched and an air ambulance attended the incident. But both men were pronounced dead at the scene.

A team of investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch visited the the crash site on Saturday to begin a probe into the tragedy. It is not thought that any other aircraft was involved in the incident.

Andy Elson, an expert in high-altitude ballooning, said a problem with the oxygen supply for those on board or with the gas cylinders would be the most likely cause of a problem at flights of over 14,000ft (4,267m).


From Belfast Telegraph